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CHICAGO — Chicagoans were again given a chance to weigh in on a proposed casino Tuesday night at the first of two community engagement meetings.  

As the city plans to bring a Bally’s Casino to River West, the division between those in favor and against the gambling site remains.  

“I don’t know how Bally’s and the city of Chicago, even with support by [Illinois State Police], can keep neighbors safe in this area,” said Mark Fastabend, who lives near the casino site. “You’re going to have people leaving the casino oftentimes late at night, oftentimes under the influence of alcohol and some of those people will know, at least some will, that they’re leaving with large amounts of money and that creates an opportunity for crime.” 

Study says River North can handle increased traffic from temporary casino; some disagree

Tuesday’s community meeting at the Voco Hotel downtown saw casino officials and architects outline how the temporary casino site at the Old Medinah Temple at Ohio and Wabash (the permanent casino site near Chicago and Halsted is due sometime in 2026) would be preserved. Also discussed was how a community advisory committee would be formed to focus on issues like diversity and inclusion, adding that $4 million would be paid annually to the city once the casino is up and running – half to a general fund and another $2 million to a community benefits program. 

However, many in attendance voiced concerns about vehicular-related occurrence: parking. In response, officials say parking won’t be a problem, deducing from a traffic study that thousands of available spots are accessible near Medinah. 

But Fastabend remains focused on safety, seeking a commitment from Bally’s representatives.  

“Will they halt production on a permanent casino site until they find a permanent solution?” he asked. “Bally’s clearly said ‘no,’ which says to me that they’re valuing profits and their corporations above the lives and safety of the people who will be their future neighbors.”